Baby, plan your birth!

A couple of queer expats in Singapore on a quest to make a baby


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Where do babies come from?

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Where do babies come from? Bangkok, of course!

Babies come from Bangkok! We hope.

After a whirlwind of emotions, we set off for Bangkok on Tuesday night.  By the time we boarded, we were both pretty much done with everything – we spent the flight basking in the emotional turmoil of gloriously bad ABC family dramas.  Perfect.

Of course, I break that sweet, television-induced sedation by spending the rest of our evening scouring academic articles for everything known about IUI, trigger shot-to-ovulation timing, and whether 24 hrs vs. 30 hrs vs. 36 hrs matters at all.  Confirmation bias abounds.  Everything will be okay.

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Swanky clinic – image from their brochure, as they reasonably asked we not take pictures.

Bright and early Wednesday, we headed to our clinic, which turned out to be about 300% more swanky than we expected.  We huddled in our padded furniture pod alongside 30+ other families and waited to meet with the doctor. Despite everyone’s disappointment that I had not done things “properly,” the doctor (and her army of ultrasound technicians) seemed reasonably optimistic.

We broke for lunch, I tried not to eat too much street food (so hard!), and reconvened in the afternoon.  We donned our baby-making costumes – sexy sterile crocs and hospital caps and gowns for both of us.

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After prepping very, very slowly, to help delay the insemination time as much as possible, it was time to make some babies.  The doctor brought out our washed, processed, and ready for action sperm, which came in a lovely shade of pink.  I got all situated, and then the team got to work.

I was more than a bit nervous because most experiences I’ve had with doctors poking my insides have been negative.  I researched other folks’ IUI experiences, which, of course, were all over the place.  Usually, the range was from “didn’t notice” to “it was uncomfortable.”  So I shouldn’t worry?  Wrong.  Always beware the use of “uncomfortable” in a medical setting.

In non-medical settings, the phrase “uncomfortable” refers to anything from a chair with insufficient padding to an awkward social situation.  Maybe the over-full feeling you get after too much pizza.  Uncomfortable.  In medical land, “uncomfortable” is everything short of getting your arm cut off or passing a kidney stone.  It’s more like how spraining your wrist is “uncomfortable” or getting a bronchoscopy is “uncomfortable.”  HA.  It is “bad.”  Simply bad.

Despite the “uncomfortable” nature of the procedure, of course, I was a champ.  That is, if by “champ,” you mean that I hyperventilated, experienced an extreme blood pressure drop, and nearly passed out.  I went through those smelling salts like a champ, that’s for sure.  Aced it.

Then it was over.  I rested for an hour with my book, leaning on my right side as I was told to to help direct the little swimmers toward the good egg (still waiting for an academic paper on that) then we headed out for lunch and a relaxing evening.

And now we wait.

-E

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Question Box Answers: race and choosing a sperm donor

Welcome to Question Box Answers, in which we will answer questions submitted through our anonymous question box!

Today, I’ll answer two related questions:

1) What are your criteria for the sperm donor?

2) What race is your sperm donor? How did you decide?

We covered this a little bit in a previous post, “Spermfinder! or Choosing a Pet Sperm,” but I’m happy to go into more detail here.

Because the sperm bank already employs an insane level of donor screening, we knew we were choosing from the cream of the crop. (I’m not even going to apologize for that pun. It was unavoidable.) With ~500 donors to choose from, we started by selecting only “open” donors (who are willing to be contacted one time once the child has turned 18, in contrast to “anonymous” donors who cannot be contacted ever), which left us with about 150 possible donors.

I’m going to pause there to talk about race and ethnic background, which is a topic we’d discussed at length before we started.

E and I are both white. We look white, and all of our relatives look white. If we could combine our genes, our baby would be white. For a lot of couples considering sperm donors or adoption, a baby who “matches” is the obvious choice.

For us, this was not obvious. It’s not like we like white people better and want to make more of them or need to see our skin tone reflected in our baby’s skin tone. Speaking honestly, we’re surrounded by beautiful people of many different races and ethnicities here in Singapore, and there have definitely been moments when we’ve seen the cutest Asian babies and thought, I want a baby who looks like that! So initially, we decided we were open to sperm donors of any race, and we probably patted ourselves on the back mentally for being Good White People who don’t just prefer white people.

But then we thought about it and talked about it some more. We talked about how, usually, a mixed-race child has family members who are also of those races. He has people who understand and can introduce him to the cultures that go along with his racial or ethnic genetics. He sees himself reflected in those people and he can talk to them about what it means to be xyz-race and get support from them when he faces racial prejudice.

But when two white people make a mixed-race baby, all of that is missing. We’d be ill-equipped to acquaint our child with Asian culture or Black culture, and any efforts we made to do so (because you know we’d try!) would likely be awkward and inappropriate even though we’d mean well. We’d risk isolating a child who is, let’s face it, already going to face challenges as the kid with two gay moms.

And for what? So that we can have a cute mixed-race baby or demonstrate how open-minded we are? No, that’s like the worst sort of souvenir shopping (“We lived in Asia for three years, so we made you half-Asian!”) or cultural appropriation (“We love brown babies and want to be part of a post-racial society, so we used Black sperm even though we’re not Black and have experienced none of the prejudice that Black people face. We’ll feel connected through you!”). Ultimately, we decided that choosing a non-white donor to make a mixed-race baby would be an instance of white people (us) using non-white bodies (sort of, you get what we’re saying) to fulfill our own wants. Not cool.

So on the California Cryobank website, we clicked the “Caucasian” box (which still felt icky, even though we’d decided it was the right way to go). And after all of that, it turned out that eliminating eight other racial and ethnic groups only removed 15 of the 150 open donors at this particular cryobank. From there, we played around with various combinations, favoring men who were a “yes” for most of the following criteria: curly hair (we both have curly hair), negative blood type (E is negative, and while Rh incompatibility isn’t a big deal these days, it’s one less thing to worry about), reasonable level of athletic and creative ability/interests, and completed college degree.

When we had a more manageable list of around 20 possible donors, we upgraded our subscription so we could get more information, including baby pictures and family medical histories. We combed through the histories, eliminating donors whose family members had a lot of inheritable medical issues, especially those that overlapped with conditions in E’s family. And we looked for childhood pictures that loosely resembled me, since I’m the non-biological parent.

Finally, we picked three finalists and upgraded again for voice samples, which turned out to be recorded conversations between the donor and a cryobank employee. These helped us determine that one of the three was a quite clearly an asshole, a trait that is (likely) non-genetic but would affect the interaction our kid might have with him in 20 years, an interaction that our kid might attach a lot of significance to. And besides, why go with a jerk when we had two really sweet guys to choose from? So we chose one of the nice guys. They don’t always finish last 🙂

That’s all for today. Send us more questions and we’ll do our best to answer!

-H


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Spermfinder! or Choosing a Pet Sperm

Based on E’s posts, some of you may wonder how we even got this far in the process, so I’m here to catch you up, starting with our adventures in getting hold of some xy genetic material.

We began the hunt for sperm in late 2013.

We’d already moved to Singapore and knew that, given our complicated legal status, this whole thing was going to be difficult. But we also knew that, given our complicated legal status, I wasn’t going to be employed during our three-year stay in Singapore. (E has a job here, which is what brought us to Singapore in the first place.) So while it’s a bad time/place to make a baby, it’s a great time/place to start raising a baby. We decided to go for it.

We considered a couple of avenues for the procurement of sperm, namely known donors and unknown donors. The choice was tough. On the one hand, we liked the idea of having more village. We thought it would be cool for our child to have some kind of relationship with the donor, placing him in sort of a godparent role. On the other hand, those situations sometimes go really horribly wrong, and the legal framework for these kinds of scenarios is still blurry. Not to mention the chance that we’d destroy a good friendship in the process.

Still, we thought we should find out whether any of our potential known donors would even be willing, just so we’d know our options. So we made a list of a few close male friends with excellent genes who we thought might possibly be comfortable with a very modern family structure, and then asked them. Really awkwardly. It was so awkward. All were gracious and lovely and ultimately worried about many of the same things we were, and in the end, we all decided that this wasn’t the way to go.

Enter the California Cryobank, or as we call it “Petfinder for Sperm.” This is a sperm bank with several locations in the US (that, importantly, ships overseas) that targets really high-quality donors and then narrows them down to a select set of unbelievably perfect people. If this sounds eugenicsy already, just you wait. The website’s donor profiles have paywalls protecting various levels of information (hopefully true, factual information). If you pay them enough money, you can get everything from SAT scores to baby pictures, voice samples to the cause of death of their maternal aunts. You can pick a blond, blue-eyed med student who was an All American swimmer. You can pick a tall, dark, and handsome guitar-playing engineer. You can pick so many out-of-work actors. There are hundreds of choices.

We started by eliminating the completely anonymous donors in favor of willing-to-be-known unknown donors so our future offspring would have the option of contacting the donor upon reaching adulthood. From there, we went for a donor that looks reasonably similar to me since I’m to be the non-biological parent. Fortunately, that narrowed it down quite a lot. Curly hair does that. We finally reduced our choices to a few candidates and shelled out for the voice samples so we could hear them chat with the clinic staff. This was a good idea. One of the men was clearly an asshole, and while that’s probably not genetic, if our kid is going to be contacting this guy in 20 years feeling all vulnerable and hopeful, the last thing we want is some insensitive jerk on the other end of that conversation.

Finally, we picked one.

I’ll stop there for now. But in my next post, I’ll tell all you interested readers about the process of finding a country in which we can do the insemination. Spoilers: it’s definitely not Singapore…. or Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, or New Zealand.

 

-H